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League Two

Sammy McIlroy's Blog 22

16 January 2013

It seems like every week in this blog I'm obliged to talk about the sacking of yet another npower League 2 manager, so I really can't say I was surprised when I heard on Monday that 46 of the 92 Football League clubs have different managers today than they had in place in May at the end of last season.

Even by modern standards, it's a staggering statistic. We all know the pressure on managers from fans, chairmen and the media is enormous but such wholesale changes in such a short period of time has to be madness, doesn't it?

It's been less than two years since I left Morecambe and I think the impatience, the sense of panic from the men in suits and the willingness to chop and change at the drop of a hat has gone up another level since then. I know football is a results driven business but it feels now that clubs have lost all sense of perspective.

One of the big changes in recent years is the timing of sackings. In the 'old days', there would be a trickle of changes early in the season and more towards the end of the campaign as clubs began to worry about relegation or promotion, but now it seems the dismissals come relentlessly throughout the whole year. There's just no lull any more.

I worry about the development of young managers. With so much instability, it's becoming harder and harder for the next generation to get any meaningful experience in the job and it doesn't matter how much time and money they invest in getting their coaching badges and Pro Licences because they're increasingly lucky to get a full year in charge. And if they do get the sack, there are absolutely no guarantees they will get another opportunity.

The Football Association are desperate to increase the numbers of qualified coaches in the game but there's a real risk that what they're trying to achieve will be undermined by too many young managers being discarded far too early in their careers.

Of course, one sacking is another manager's big break. It's the nature of the game but for me the turnover has become too rapid and I wouldn't be surprised if players coming to the end of their careers begin to have second thoughts about going down the coaching route.

John Sheridan was one of those 42 changes I mentioned as he was appointed Plymouth manager last week, following Carl Fletcher's sacking on New Year's Day and I think with a bit of luck and a fair wind, Argyle have a decent chance of getting out of trouble with John in charge. He's got bags of experience at this level with Chesterfield and knows what is required.

The key for Plymouth's prospects is John's ability to blend in a few old heads to steer the club's younger players through to the end of the season. Young legs are great but you always need experienced players to set the tone and set an example.

John has already signalled his intent by signing Guy Branston from Aldershot Town on a free transfer and the 34-year-old is exactly the kind of player I'd have looked to bring in to stiffen up the defence. If he can add a few more like that, I think the Pilgrims can survive.

It was a remarkable weekend for two of npower League 2's bottom clubs with Barnet and Bristol Rovers going to Rotherham United and Fleetwood Town respectively and coming away with the three points. They were what I'd call a couple of coupon busters and prove yet again how tight the division is this season.

Barnet remain a bit of an enigma under Edgar Davids in terms of consistency but there aren't many sides that go to Rotherham and win, while Rovers' 3-0 success at Highbury was a stunning result.

Neither side are out of the woods yet but it's a timely reminder that the battle to stay up is, in my opinion, going right down to the wire this year.

At the other end of the table, Lee Hughes didn't take long to settle in at Port Vale with a goal on his debut in the 2-1 win at Gillingham. And, with Tom Pope getting his 26th of the season, the Valiants are sitting pretty at the top of the table - a point clear of the Gills.

I was talking about Hughes in last week's blog and the potential of his partnership with Pope. It looks like they've already forged a decent understanding and if Micky Adams can maybe add a decent utility player to his squad before the transfer window closes, you'd have to say Vale are looking title favourites at the moment.

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